High school sports are full of drama. Rivalries and upsets, championships and teamwork are all part of memories that last a lifetime. Those on the outside see the competition, but many who live it every day see family. The annual Southern Shootout soccer tournament is a chance for the Alabama high school soccer family to come together. This year’s reunion is slated for February 6 – 8 at the Foley Sports Tourism Fields.
The Shootout, now in its 18th year, has grown and, for the first time, will feature more than 100 teams. The competition brings boys and girls varsity, junior varsity, and middle school teams to Foley on the first weekend of the high school season.
Joe Webb, Head Coach of Mountain Brook High School in Birmingham, has more than 400 high school wins under his belt and has been attending the Southern Shootout for more than a decade. Each year brings a new batch of memories.
“The bus trips are a lot of fun every year,” Webb recalled. “But one of our favorite tourneys was when we won the ‘Bundesilga’ trophy. It was a misprint, supposed to be Bundesliga. Instead of it being a problem, the guys got a big kick out of it. We are the one and only ever Bundesilga champs.”
The team bonding of a road trip comes at the perfect time, Webb said. It allows the squad to learn about what works and what doesn’t work before the regular season starts. But it also allows for coaches to bond as well.
“I’ve known the Shootout Tournament Director Chad Harrelson a long time and that’s why we first chose to attend,” Webb said. “We keep coming back for a lot of reasons: great facilities, hosts, opponents, and weather. I also really like getting to see teams that we don’t normally see in Birmingham and then, of course, renewing friendships with Chad, Nate Nicholas at McGill-Toolen, Paul at Fairhope, etc.”
After 44 years of coaching, Ron Oakley also knows a bit about renewing friendships and he said when he someday retires it will be one of the things he will miss most about sports. Oakley coaches boys varsity and junior varsity teams at Athens High School in Athens, Alabama and has participated in the Shootout since its inception, missing only a year due to the birth of a grandchild. The trip may be more than 300 miles each way but, for Oakley it’s the impact the Shootout has on his players makes the journey worth it.
“Last year at our senior night we introduced our players and their families,” Oakley recalled. “We asked them, ‘What was your favorite Athens High School soccer memory?’ We had about 12 seniors and about six or seven of them said without a doubt it was the tournament at the beach. They didn’t know the name Southern Shootout but some of our kids have never been to the beach. That was special.”
David Thompson, Foley Director of Recreation and Sports Tourism said the Southern Shootout is a highlight of the Foley Sports Tourism calendar each year because of the memories it creates and the relationships it develops.
“Sports forge strong relationships through the highs of winning and the lows of defeat,” Thompson said. “Whatever happens on the field happens to you as a team and that’s a connection you don’t soon forget. The Shootout, being the first competition of the season, means you get to truly watch how players become teams before your eyes.”
The Southern Shootout kicks off on the evening of Thursday February 6 and runs through Saturday February 9. It’s open to the public and there is a charge for admission. An all-weekend armband is $15 for adults and $10 for students. A one-day armband is $10 for adults and $5 for students. For more information on the Shootout, or any Foley Sports Tourism event, visit our events page.